Nothing like a sous vide circulator.
Nothing like a sous vide circulator.

How to sum up another year in food? Given the festive season, a song is the best I can do, sung to the theme of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

In the first month of this year

Thermomix owners are everywhere, you can't tell us apart except for a slight shabby look after spending so much money and a severely self-satisfied look. 

My brain did say to me,

A mud crab for Chinese new year

In the second month of this year

My brain did say to me

Two plump quails

And a mud crab for Chinese new year

In the third month of this year

My brain did say to me

Three organs minced up

That's called haggis

And a mud crab for Chinese new year

In the fourth month of this year

My brain did say to me,

Four lambs a-bleatin'

Three went elsewhere

Two plump quails

And a mud crab for Chinese new year

Later in fourth the month

My family gave to me

A fine Ther-mo-mix…

Four lambs a-bleatin'

Three organs minced up

Two plump quails

And a mud crab for Chinese new year

 

I'll stop there, before I get up to the grim topics of winter - slaughtering my own pig, my visit to Morpeth and my attempt to resuscitate a goose using mouth to mouth.

It never ceases to amaze me what turns up each week in a quest to live paddock to plate. You might have seen the new Matt Moran television series, also titled Paddock to Plate, but make no mistake, driving oneself around in an Audi visiting windswept folk who grow their own stuff isn't the same as growing or bartering yourself. Sure the imagery is terrific and Moran knows his food, but I don't need a German car to find out how to grow snails and pigs, I can do that right here at home. And yes, I am bitter seeing as he's pushed me way down the Google search engine.

This year has thrown many a beast my way and I feel very lucky knowing so many windswept people who scour the countryside between Crookwell and Tumbarumba for weird stuff for me to play with.

But this year the best thing that happened was kitting out my country kitchen with some modern equipment.

First (actually last year), my sous vide circulator, the ultimate tool in controlled cooking. It is a bit of an ordeal to set up - clearing out the laundry and setting up a huge pot to fit the circulator and then having to seal up everything in plastic bags. So I don't do it often, but when you're organised being able to cook a short rib from a cow at 57 degrees for 48 hours is pretty cool. It's more than just the slow cooking that makes the result so interesting - you don't get any dilution of flavour via evaporation at the surface, so everything, particularly lamb, retains this intense pure flavour.

Then there's the food dehydrator, which means making your own beef jerky for the school lunchbox is very easy and you know exactly what went into it.

The thermosiphon was a panic buy. You can make the strangest whipped potato and other hot foams in it, but I've yet to find a really worthwhile use for it.

And the Thermomix, a birthday present from the family (sort of, I ordered this $2000 blender myself) on the great occasion of turning fif … fif … You know, that age that I'm so OK about now.

I get asked a lot about this machine, and it's like trying to describe why shoes are better than none. Sure, we don't technically need shoes, but life is so much easier with them. If you were starting a kitchen from scratch I'd say grab one because it will negate the need for blenders, food mills, grinders, wooden spoons, steamers, just about anything. I reckon you could do quite well with just this device.

Does it do something you can't do already? Well, no, but it does everything so much easier and cleans itself at the end.

It's like having another set of hands in the kitchen. You can set it up with accurate timing, temperature and speeds and it will make, with timely additions by you: excellent ragu for bolognese, even grinding the meat for you; risottos with creamy and correct texture so much better than you can do on the stovetop unless you happen to be an expert; soups, and it makes them in 12 minutes.

In sauce-making, you get to see how good a Thermomix is. You've all made a white sauce, melting the butter, stirring in the flour, cooking it then adding the milk in a way that won't congeal the sauce. Well, you just bung in all the ingredients at the same time, set the time, temperature and speed, go make a negroni, and when you come back you'll find a perfect result.

I'm not alone in liking this thing: sales are booming in Canberra. Thermomix had sold 469 machines in Canberra in the nine months to September, and expects to sell 700 for the full year, compared with 400 for the entire 2012. Nationally, 35,800 machines were sold to September this year.

Thermomix owners are everywhere, you can't tell us apart except for a slight shabby look after spending so much money and a severely self-satisfied look. And no, I get no kickbacks for enthusiastically endorsing this machine (yet).

>> Bryan Martin is winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla, bryanmartin.com.au